10:00AM, JUN 22 2022
If asked to name Royal Ascot’s most impressive winner last week, most people would probably go for Nature Strip or Inspiral, but it’s one of the handicap winners that I can’t stop thinking about.
The William Haggas-trained Candleford tore apart the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes on Friday and, while he’ll have plenty to overcome, I’ve been pondering whether or not he could graduate to Pattern or Cup races next season.
The race he won at Kempton in November is strong form, with the runner-up Coltrane taking the Ascot Stakes, and it’s worth noting that last year’s Duke of Edinburgh winner Quickthorn made the transition to Group company, landing the Henry II Stakes at Sandown last month, which borders well.
The first step would be for him to remain in Britain of course, but given he is owned by his breeders and they’ve surely already turned down several offers, I’m hopeful he’ll remain on these shores.
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Candleford: a Cup horse in the making?
With many of Britain’s prospective stayers being funneled to race elsewhere, there is undoubtedly an opportunity for him to at least be competitive at a decent level.
He’s a half-brother to Atty Persse, who the King George V Handicap in 2017, but ended his career in Spain after failing to progress, and several winners of the Duke of Edinburgh have also subsequently disappointed.
There are exceptions of course, as the 2013 winner Opinion went on to be awarded a Group 1 in Australia, the following year’s winner Arab Spring went on to land two Group 3s and the 2017 victor Rare Rhythm beat three-time Group 1 winner Vazirabad in to Meydan Group 3.
Candleford matches up pretty well having recorded the second-highest Racing Post Rating of a Duke of Edinburgh winner in the last ten years, and in Ajero and Contact he beat two progressive young stayers.
He showed a potent change of gear at Ascot – presumably he has his dad Kingman to thank for that – and you would expect there would be even more to come given it was his first start of the season and he’s only had eight races in his life .
A hefty rise in the weights is imminent but connections will presumably have their eye on the Ebor, for which he is the 10-1 joint-favourite.
Interestingly, it is a position he shares with stablemate Gaassee, who his trainer indicated was a potential stakes horse when he won at York in May. Unlike Candleford, he holds big-race entries for the Princess of Wales’s Stakes and Irish St Leger.
It’s worth underlining just how many talented horses Haggas has in his string this year, so don’t be surprised if his hot run of form continues.
La Yakel was only third at Windsor on Monday evening after a slow start but he was staying on determinedly at the finish and is one to watch up in trip. Secret State and Laasudood, the two horses in front of him at Nottingham last time, have both won since, one of which came at Royal Ascot. The Windsor race could look strong form as the winner Space Tracker and second Bling On The Music have room for improvement.
Long live Vadeni!
Sunday was the bearer of good news when it was announced that easy Prix du Jockey Club winner Vadeni would be supplemented for the Coral-Eclipse on July 2.
The French handicapper gave him a rating of 55.5kg, which – according to my colleague Scott Burton – rounded to the nearest kilogram puts him on 123, the same as the Derby winner Desert Crown. RPRs concur, with Desert Crown on 124 and Vadeni on 123.
Pounds and ounces aside, it is clear Vadeni is a horse of immense talent and his presence in the Eclipse is thanks to the sportsmanship of his connections.
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Vadeni: impressive French Derby winner goes for the Coral-Eclipse next
This sort of campaigning is seldom seen over jumps these days and it makes a refreshing change when connections are willing to chance their horse at a big race or change any predetermined plans they may have had.
The three-year-olds receive a whopping 10lb from their elders in the Eclipse and have won three of the last seven runnings, including St Mark’s Basilica who did the Jockey Club-Eclipse double 12 months ago, so it is well worth a go.
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